Blame Conformity: Leading Eyewitness Statements can Influence Attributions of Blame for an Accident

Authors


Correspondence to: Dr. Craig Thorley, Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, L39 4QP, Lancashire, UK.

E-mail: craig.thorley@edgehill.ac.uk

Summary

The present experiment examined whether attributions of blame for an incident can be shifted between individuals as a result of a leading eyewitness statement. Participants watched a video of an accident involving two men and then read either a non-leading eyewitness statement that blamed no one for the accident or a leading eyewitness statement that blamed one of the two men for the accident. Participants' attributions of blame for the accident were then assessed either immediately or after a 1 week delay. Regardless of the time delay, just over one-third of participants who read a leading statement subsequently blamed the same person as the eyewitness. In contrast, less than 4% of participants who read a non-leading statement blamed one of the men. This research is the first to demonstrate blame conformity, where blame for an incident can be shifted between individuals as a result of a leading eyewitness statement. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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